Tag Archives: pork belly

Pre-wedding diet


G’day Tony,

Ok, so I had to dust off the cob-webs (pardon the pun) and put some electrons on virtual paper. Humblest apologies for being off-line for so long, that’s if you missed me. If you didn’t miss me, sorry I am back.

Winter left in a hurry, replaced by all that is good about spring…except the snow melting, strong northerly winds, hayfever, the smell of dynamic lifter on the garden, changing clocks forward (daylight savings time) and school holiday madness in the city. Other than that, I love spring and all that it brings!

Our final weekend at Mt Buller brought together a great group of friends for a little bit of skiing and a lot of eating and drinking. A boisterous group at the lodge on the Saturday night partook in an array of goodies lovingly BBQ’d by Jim…chicken pieces marinaded in rosemary, garlic, chilli, olive oil and lots of fresh lemon zest and juice, slow braised pork belly (bbq’d to give a really nice caramelisation) courtesy of Alex and lamb rissoles with cumin, turmeric, smoky paprika, sumac, parsley and feta cheese…yep, fetta crumbled through the mix. Much, much goodness!

Some salads and freshly baked bread to round out the meat feast. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine!

Dessert was a surprise. I whipped up a chocolate self saucing pudding, while someone mixed together the fixings for a sticky date pudding. Confusion, wine, not sure which, but flour was inadvertently left out of the sticky date. Unsurprisingly the mix didn’t set. It was only then that the error was picked up. So, I did what any hungry (I was stuffed the gunnels, but still wanted sticky date pudding) I added a half amount of self raising flour, mixed and popped back in the oven. The comments when served surprised me…best sticky date pudding ever! Score!

The last few weeks have been a blur of pre-wedding diet food. Some stand out meals. Nah, who am I kidding. The stuff is okay, but is never going to substitute for real home cooked food!

Julia and I have an agreement. We must visit one nice restaurant a month. Not a big ask in a city like Melbourne. But being away every weekend and both of us super busy during the week, it simply hasn’t happened for a while. About to make up for it, though.

Was taken to Zia Rina’s Cucina by Phil from Armadale Cellars the other day for lunch. Phil’s been around the block a few times and he rates chef/owner Rina as good as any Michelin stared chef he’s seen on the continent. Must admit, the food is blindingly good. So much so, heading back there this week with a good friend who will be in town from Dubai. If any place can float Nick’s boat, this should do it. Oh, it’s BYO too, so I am going to hit Nick up to dust something off from his Arabian cellar…no doubt I will be doing the same from my cellar.

Honey-moon is fast approaching (next week). A few nights in Bangkok, to get into the groove. So, I booked us into Nahm and Gaggan. Both are listed in the top 50 restaurants in the world, but are they that good?

Sure, you can live it up in Thailand without spending a bomb, but I fail to understand how Nahm (rated #12 in the world) can cost BHT2,000/person (~AUD75.00) for degustation dinner, while the highest rated Australian restaurant, at #32, is giving you their experience at AUD190/person. I know, I know, this opens a Pandora’s box of arguments.

Pretty soon, we in Melbourne will play host to The Fat Duck. Yep, that Brayside stalwart which boasts a number of Michelin stars. For 6 months and 45 seats, that means 16,000 people will be served while they are in Melbourne. Getting a table…forget it. Ballot it will be, but at north of $525/person (ex-booze), it is almost cheaper to fly to England and experience it in its home location!

How much are you willing to spend (not including tip) and a meal to remember? Does it need to be a restaurant that is rated by Michelin, or S. Pellegrino or whichever is your go to restaurant reviewers?

For me, that memorable meal may be as simple as some hawker food on the foreshore of somewhere tropical, but it’s not going to stop me visiting Nahm and Gaggan. In the meantime, it is back to the microwave to “cook” dinner for tonight *sigh*

Catch you soon!



Boy’s Menu

Coconut cream

Hey Dan,

Looks as though you do nothing but eat out. Being the poorer sibling, I’m doing more home cooking, and am at the end of a two-week stint of fending for myself.

No big deal I hear you say, except I’m on the island, and that changes things.

For those who don’t know, it’s a remote island in the middle of nowhere, and my nearest food supplies are at least a 30-minute boat ride away. And I don’t own a boat. Needless to say it, but shopping is done once a week.

I know what you’re thinking – why not grow some food yourself? I do try, but between feral pigs and water buffalos (no kidding) it isn’t easy. I do have more coconuts than I know what to do with, so this week when I made a green chicken curry…I used some store-bought coconut cream. Have you ever made coconut cream? I have and I was pretty proud of myself too (I even took a photo, above) but it took forever, and didn’t taste that much better. Half an hour’s work and all that sweat? Really, just buy the stuff.

Anyway, because I’m effectively a bachelor, that means I don’t have the shopping rigour of my better half, who not only makes menu and ingredient lists, but actually consults them while in the shops. I’m the boy who goes to the store thinking I’d like to make a frittata and comes home with onions, potatoes, and capers (because we were out) but no eggs.

Worse. My mind always turns to the most complex things you can imagine: Twice-cooked pork belly (simmered for two hours, then char-grilled)? Yep. Did that. Though in my defence, it is still charred meat – the caveman is alive and well!

Even when I do map out a week’s menus, I’ll get to the day and decide I want something else instead.

In some ways it’s like being on one of those cooking shows: “Here are your ingredients: You have one hour!” Only I’d lose miserably, because I’d be “well the pork belly’s going to need another couple of hours” when they tell me to plate-up. Makes me wonder whether they’re only looking for short-order cooks, but that’s another story.

Anyway. The finite ingredients make me get a bit creative. Sometimes that’s good. I cooked some Asian-style chicken (that I’d never serve to an Asian friend, even though it was delicious), and tonight, getting towards the end of what’s in the fridge, it’s a Spanish-style omelet. Again, something I’d never serve to a Spaniard.

But it’s interesting that as Australians we feel free to experiment with other cuisines. I think that’s why there are so many really good Australian chefs. That said, you really need to master a traditional dish before you can feel free to modify it. Apparently Picasso said you need to “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

I think there are too many chefs trying to run before they’ve learned to walk. My experimentation is more a matter of necessity, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t successes along the way. Come and visit and I’ll do the pork. It’s pretty sensational, though in retrospect I forgot one of its prime ingredients this time around. Ah well…